• Firm Leadership

9 Pieces of Career Advice From Successful Women in Finance

Morgan Stanley women share how they are navigating through and thriving in the competitive world of financial services.

Whether you’re starting out or at the top of your game, there’s no lack of advice from people, books and industry gurus on how to succeed. At Morgan Stanley, we believe that experience is the best teacher, when you have a culture based on collaboration and camaraderie. We asked some of our female employees at different stages of their careers about the best advice they have to share, or have received along the way, as they pave career paths in the fast-paced, highly competitive global industry of finance. 

1. Preparation is More Powerful Than Perfection

Rather than strive for perfection, you’ll be much better off striving to be as prepared as you can be. I've always done my homework and tried to anticipate what might be next. The more planning you do, the more you’ll be successful in both the workplace and at home.
Clare Woodman Chief Operating Officer, Institutional Securities Group View Profile

2. Never apologize For Being Yourself

When I first started my career, I used to be apprehensive about voicing my opinions, so I’d often apologize for giving them. My boss told me I should never apologize for being myself, and that advice has been transformative.
Katy Zhao Vice President, Investment Products & Services, Wealth Management View Profile

3. Set Realistic Goals, Then Exceed Them

Always set realistic goals for what you can deliver to a client, and then make sure you exceed them. There are many things that will help you along in your career, but it's the track record of your work that ultimately follows you and sets a precedent for who you are.
Megan Maloney Analyst, Investment Banking, Technology Coverage View Profile

4. You Need a Dream, A Goal and Passion

First, you need to have a dream; second an idea of what your goal is and third, passion. Obviously having the skill set and working hard are important, but if you don’t have a dream and a goal, then don’t be surprised when you don’t get there. And if you don’t fill your dream with passion, then you can become disheartened about your career choice during the tough times. And there are always tough times in a cyclical business like finance.
Wei Sun Christianson CEO Morgan Stanley China, Co-CEO Morgan Stanley Asia Pacific View Profile

5. Admit Your Mistakes

My boss once told me to always have the strength to admit when I’m wrong. There’s nothing more intimidating than realizing you’ve made a mistake, and it takes a lot of confidence and courage to admit it. Just remember that we’re all human, and it’s better to own up to mistakes rather than hide them. (Plus they rarely stay hidden). It really builds respect and trust among a team.

6. Transparency and Honesty are Key

When I got my first management position nearly 15 years ago, My global manager said to remember, 'Transparency and honesty are key to managing relationships and gaining trust from people. And it’s harder than you think.' It’s true. It’s incredibly hard sometimes to deliver a message you know someone is not going to like, but in the long run, it really pays off to be as transparent about a situation as you can be.
Yuki Hashimoto Managing Director, Head of Fixed Income, Japan

7. Broaden Your Network

It’s incredibly beneficial to your career to broaden your network outside your immediate team. If you build relationships with colleagues in other teams or divisions, it’ll give you a support network you can turn to for career advice. I think that having a good network can also help you do your job better, because you are better connected to the wider business.
Jessica Alsford Executive Director, Head of Sustainable+Responsible Investment, Equity Research View Profile

8. Have a Mentor and Keep Your Sense of Humor

One senior manager once said to us that learning and using technology is the easy part; it’s dealing with people that’s complicated. To a great extent, your quality of work will speak for itself, but I’ve found that having a mentor is invaluable. I think we can easily become emotionally invested in tiny issues, and it helps to have someone to go to, who can help you put things in perspective and keep your eye on your goals. Also, never lose your sense of humor!
Rose-Gaëlle (R-G) Belinga Associate, Technology and Data View Profile

9. Work Hard and Take Risks

The best piece of advice that I have received was: 'Work hard, take risks, and keep it simple.' I have always been a believer that hard work is the great equalizer in anything that you do, both professionally and personally. I also believe that risk/reward is not a concept that simply applies to investments, but in everything that you do in life. Taking calculated risks, betting on yourself, puts you in a position to learn, regardless of whether you succeed or fail. People can overcomplicate issues in life by focusing too much on the minor details and losing track of the macro issue at hand, but if you keep it simple by working hard and taking risks, you might surprise yourself.
Alicia Aemisegger Associate, Merchant Banking and Real Estate Investing View Profile

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